Brendan O'Connor in Lanzarote: The secret? Get your kid a job in the hotel
Brendan O'Connor takes the family to one of Ireland's favourite sun holiday destinations, living in a "quasi-commune" of absolute bliss.
It was easy to decide to head to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote for four nights.
Been there, knew the terrain, knew where to eat, what to do. It would be straight down to relaxation and getting the most out of the four days. And you know the way that kind of smug planning always goes wrong? Well, this time it didn’t go wrong. It worked. It actually worked better than we thought it would.
We were a bit uneasy about the fact that we were staying in a different part of the Princess Yaiza Hotel than we’d stayed in before. We were in the family block, which is slightly set apart from the main bit and is accessed through a tunnel under the road.
The accommodation here — basically a mini apartment with the qualities of a hotel room — was superior, with great little touches like bean bags for climbing up onto beds (for the kids, I hasten to add). But I was quietly worried that we were away from the main action. I’m not one for joining the action when on holiday, but I like to be near the buzz. And I worried we were being put into a family leper colony.
But, in fact, I’d advise any of the thousands of you who go the Yaiza every year to try the family block. You’re only two minutes from all the breakfast and general amenities, but you have your own little corner of relative peace and quiet.
Basically, it meant we joined a little community of families in this little enclave and we all lived like a quasi commune for the week. I even raised with my wife once or twice the notion that we should perhaps consider communal living on a permanent basis, which she would respond to by reminding me that, to put it kindly, I tend to like my space away from other people.
Lanzarote's Princess Yaiza Hotel.
But I loved our little experiment in communal living, because it basically meant that no one and everyone was on parenting duty. We would all set up around the excellent kids’ pool for the day and then, and here was the real beauty, the kids would all look after each other.
So the four-year-old was being looked after, and the six-year-old was doing some looking after, and they both loved their respective parts in the ecosystem. Now obviously you had to keep half an eye over the top of your Kindle, and you had to muck in now and then just to show you weren’t abusing the community’s generosity. But generally, you could actually relax.
Of course, you may ask, if I’m such a fan of this kind of thing, why don’t I just go on holidays with a gang? But the beauty of this was that because you didn’t know the other people you didn’t have to talk to them. The kids got involved with each other, and the women did to a certain extent. But the men did what we were there to do, which was spurts of spending time with our kids interspersed with bouts of not speaking.
I believe prisoners who are entrusted with doing real work around the prison are called trustees, and the older one took her role as trustee very seriously. She trod that fine line between prisoner and staff member very well. Not only did she ensure everyone was enjoying themselves at the pool, but she did the night shift too. If anyone was a bit shy about getting on the floor for the kiddies’ disco or sitting in the huddle on the floor to watch the magic show, she was there to coax them along.
All of which kept her busy while I studiously watched the action through the bottom of a beer glass. Her role as camp counsellor also helped with her own natural caution about joining in. She actually gave some parenting advice to one parent when we were leaving, explaining that she had to go now and the other child would be a bit lost, but leaving them with some tips on her temperament and how to overcome any nerves around the pool or at the disco. You could see she didn’t feel right about abandoning her charges.
Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
The general sense of relaxation is added to by the fact that Playa Blanca is all there on your doorstep and is one of the classiest little spots in the Canaries. In the evening we’d step out, head down to the beach bar in front of the hotel and watch the sun set over Fuerteventura. Wandering up the promenade to the town proper with a couple of beers in you, you’d realise that it is actually a beautiful place, even if it is touristy.
Touristy also means dinky shops and nice places to eat, out in the open air, with the waves crashing in over the wall and loads of people-watching as everyone conducted the local version of the passeggiata.
Another beauty of the kids being that bit older was that, even though the older one, at six, still has a phobia about the Yaiza resort mascot Kiko the duck, they were actually willing to let us out of their sight. So you might get an hour after breakfast while they jumped around the supervised soft-play room, or else you got an hour or two in the afternoon when they would head down to Kikoland, the in-house kids park where there was painting and waterbombs and all kinds of messing.
It’s amazing how feral they can go in an hour or two. I know what you’re thinking. This guy was ignoring his kids when he was with them and then he was farming them out too. Look, the whole point of these little adventures is obviously to spend some time with them, but it doesn’t serve anyone well when that time is relentless. The relaxed vibe here meant we actually enjoyed our time together, instead of it feeling like a punishment, and there wasn’t all this pressure for us all to be together all the time. The children had their own interests to pursue, so they were that bit less needy.
And neediness is so unattractive, don’t you think?
We came back from our end-of-summer mini-break like new people and really feeling we had had a holiday. You know you’ve done well when coming home feels like a bit of a novelty even though the milk in the fridge at home is still fresh.
It was a few stolen days that gave us all the best bits of a holiday without dragging it all out too much, a greatest hits package, if you will. Not, you understand, that I wouldn’t be happy to spend months away with the family if we could.
Sunway Holidays (sunway.ie) is now offering packages for the Princess Yaiza in Lanzarote for summer 2015. Prices start from €899per person for a full package holiday for seven nights. This includes flights, hotel, transfers & resort rep service and flights from Dublin and Cork.
Sunway is also offering a free upgrade — book a Standard Twin Room and be upgraded to a One-Bed Suite Standard or book a Twin Relax Room and be upgraded to a One-Bed Suite Relax.
Read more:The Big Read: Nature and bargains in Lanzarote. What's not to like? 10 best... Winter sun destinations Lanzarote: A grape escape